Vienna is just alittle bit of a dashing city. Historical buildings ornately decorated, some even with gold, adorn this city which I would like to describe as the chic cousin of Prague. Despite the historical buildings somehow Vienna feels more like a metropolitan city than Prague did for me. How terrible am I, already comparing cities? After my early departure from the Alps, I had a week to explore Vienna. I know alot of people like to pash n dash a city whilst on holidays (and I completely understand it, I have had trips like that in the past), this trip was starting to become a nice ‘hang around for a while’ trip. I was concerned about what I would fill my week with in Vienna, there weren’t as many free tours available or cheap tours but I think you find more to see after marinating in a city and having the time to see or do all the little things that you might’ve passed up otherwise.
The city centre is easily navigated and public transport made up of the train, tram, bus and metro networks makes it easy and fast to get around. When I say easily navigated, ticket machines and maps are plentiful. The Viennese are a happy bunch and I found myself quite at home with the availability of international cuisine. I even got to satisfy my Pho craving (Vietnamese beef noodle soup, perfect for cold weather).
One of my favourite places was at the Deli in the Naschmarkt. This food market is located at the metro stop Pilgrimgasse on the U4 line. This turkish cafe has been running for 15 years and service is nice and quick. After eating supermarket breakfast for a few days, I thought I’d maybe pay more than 3 euros for breakfast. I was not disappointed at the Deli! There are alot of restaurants in the Naschmarkt that will make it difficult to decide which international cuisine you want and a stroll through the Naschmarkt will take you past spice shops, fruit and vege shops and heaps of middle eastern stores selling falafels and spreads.
Vienna is a huge city that can be explored by foot and all the historical sites tend to be situated quite closely. Even the museums have their own quarter (named Museumsquarter) so you can get museum-ed out in one go. I found Vienna to be a very safe city even at night. I was very thoroughly impressed.
Situated in the Austrian Alps around Hallstat lake are the towns Hallstat and Obertraun. Hallstat is the more famous of the two and is the main tourist destination mostly as a day trip. I thought however, being in the mountains might be nice and I could plan to do some outdoor activities to pass my time. How wrong was I! See previous A letter from Sophie post here for more details. I stayed in Obertraun which is the more budget friendly of the two towns. There are restaurants around, a supermarket and the Obertraun Resort which is like a park/beach and has bike rentals as well. Handy tip: local buses between Hallstat and Obertraun run about once a hour in each direction and none over lunch so take a picture of the bus timetable (I found the pamphlet so hard to read) and plan your day around the bus times.
To say that this area of Austria is picturesque is a huge understatement. One of the main attractions outside of the Hallstat city centre is Dachstein Mountains and in particular the Five Finger viewing platform. There are a few different viewing platforms dotted along the mountains but the Five Fingers is the most popular because they are literally platforms jutting over the edge of the mountains. As I am terrified of heights, I took in the sights from a nice stable grounded area. Speaking of heights, to get up to the top of the mountain involves 2 cable car rides. Again, I found them terrifying.
It is worth the few minutes of sheer terror in the cable cars though to get views like this! I as wondering why people were going into the cable cars with huge backpacks and thought they were going camping but alas, they were actually parachuters. You’re high up so make sure sunscreen and a hat is brought as well as water. I didn’t do all the different viewing platforms but bring lunch and you could easily spend almost 5 hours up here. Also up here are the Dachstein Ice and Mammut Caves. You can buy a combined ticket for all three things. It would be a tiring day but great for the kids in my opinion. Bring lunch!
Hallstat is a lot bigger than I thought it was. Salt stores and cafes make the bulk of the so called ‘small town’. It’s easily crossed in about 20 minutes. There is a salt mine across the road from Hallstat (so I guess it’s still in Hallstat) that I quite enjoyed as I had never done anything like it before and takes approximately 2 hours to go up and down and do a guided tour.
I arrived here using CK shuttle (from Cesky Krumlov) but Hallstat and Obertraun each have their own train station and can be used to travel to and from Vienna or Salzburg. Interestingly, Hallstat train station is situated on the otherside of the river from Hallstat town (weird!) and any trains you do catch out to Salzburg or Vienna will require a train change at Attnang-Puchheim station. It’s the last stop so you won’t miss it!
Depending on what you want to do, a day trip or a few days here would work. There is one thing in common in coming here though and it’s to enjoy the view.